My father told me many times a sad story of Granddad Bowles trying to get out of the sheep business. Recently Cousin Les Bowles of Marble Falls, told the same story and it became a very funny story. Cousin Les is a good storyteller and the reason is that one of his friends in the fertilizer business for many years was Jerry Clower of Yazoo, MS. Jerry used his storytelling ability to sell chemical fertilizer and became a nationally known storyteller that sold millions of comedy albums. Les continued to sell fertilizer, but while working with Jerry, he learned to turn a tale of woe into a humorous story. During the Depression, Granddad had many sheep and with no market for several years they multiplied. Hearing there were buyers in Fort Worth, he decided to herd them into Austin, the nearest railhead 30 miles south. Leonard East had a wagon yard on East Second, not far from the Congress Avenue bridge. It would take several days to get to Austin, starting down Bee Creek Road, then Bee Caves Road. It had to be a sight all those wooly critters crossing the bridge. Once at the rail yard in Austin, they were loaded and shipped to the Union Stockyard in Fort Worth. Granddad received a bill for freight and no check. He received a letter that said, “I am sorry to inform you that the sale of your sheep did not cover the freight charges, this invoice is for the difference that you owe.” Granddad wrote back that he didn’t have any money to pay the bill, but he had found some more sheep that he would be glad to trade for what was owed. He got a prompt reply from the railroad agent that said “Let’s just call it even.” Les made a lighthearted story out of Depression Era hard times. That is what storytelling is all about. Thanks Cousin for sharing the story.
Last time, I introduced you to Jim Shoulders, the world’s best cowboy. As promised, here’s the story of my encounter with him at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas. As I was unloading my materials for the three-day show, I looked up and there was Jim Shoulders with his Brahma bull Bufford T. Lite in a trailer.
I said something to him like, “You’re not taking that bull up the elevator, are you?”
Shoulders answered, “I ain’t taking him up the escalator.” He saw me talking to the bellman who took my gear and said, “You got any pull with these folks at the Fairmont?”
“What do you need?” I asked.
“I need for a lot of these people standing the around the loading dock to get gone.”
I knew what he meant. Most of the people were hotel staff sent to help, but they were afraid of Bufford T. There were also a few curious hotel patrons milling about. I asked them to please move on, and they did.
Ole Bufford followed Shoulders up the ramp to the loading dock and right into the freight elevator. I pushed the button for them to go up.
Later, I ran into him in the hall. He thanked me for the help, and we introduced ourselves.
“You been around livestock,” he said, more as a statement than a question.
“Yes,” I said. “All my life.”
He said “I could tell. I seen in your eyes you weren’t afraid of my bull.”
“If you brought that critter into the Fairmount and the hotel allowed it,” I said, “he must be well trained.”
That evening my daughter Sherri and her high school friend Mandy Kane flew in from San Antonio for the weekend. Sherri and Mandy got to meet Jim Shoulders and Bufford T. in the main ballroom of the Fairmont. They had their pictures taken sitting on ole Bufford’s back. He just stood there posing for Sherri, as the picture shows.
As Mandy got on, I noticed something had changed in the bull’s disposition. Jim also saw the change and told the photographer to take the picture. He turned to me and said, “Git her off.”
The 1000-pound Brahma bull started to move out and away from Jim in a full circle, knocking over a few chairs and tables. The front of the ballroom quickly cleared of the more intelligent and sober conventioneers.
Jim held the rope tight but did not jerk it. He whispered to the bull calmly as it made a full circle, coming back toward me and his wrangler. Fortunately no one panicked, not even Mandy, who seemed to be enjoying the ride. Jim gave Bufford just enough rope to allow him to circle back to me, and I pulled Mandy off.
Then the world’s greatest cowboy led Bufford away as if nothing had happened.
And that’s no bull.
Jim Shoulders won 16 world championship titles in bull and bareback riding. For those that don’t follow National Finals Rodeo (NFR) events and don’t recognize what that means, it would be in the league of Babe Ruth in baseball, Michael Jordan in basketball, or Tiger Woods in golf (minus the chicks). After retiring from bull riding, Jim Shoulders produced rodeos and provided livestock for rodeos. He promoted Wrangler Jeans to the point that no real cowboy would be caught dead in those other denim jeans. Same with Justin Boots.
Jim had a Brahma Bull named Bufford T. Lite. They traveled around the country promoting Miller Lite Beer. You may remember some of those zany commercials back in the 80’s. I have a good laugh every time I think of the commercial he did with New York Yankees manager Billy Martin. Enjoy the video of the ad below—it’s still available on YouTube.
I had watched Jim Shoulders compete but had never had the privilege of meeting him until July 1982. We both were working a convention at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas. There I saw his greatest feat, which I’ll tell you about next time.
In lieu of a blog today, I encourage those in the area of Jonesborough, Tennessee to come by and enjoy a fun weekend of storytelling at the 40th Annual National Storytelling Festival.
I will be telling stories and signing books at the Jonesborough Visitors Center, Friday and Saturday, October 5 and 6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, October 7, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
David Bowles, On the Road Again
I am looking forward to seeing storytelling friends and readers at the 40th Annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee the first weekend in October. It is the perfect setting to launch my next book and the story of the Children of the Revolution.
Book 3, Children of the Revolution in the Westward Sagas series is simultaneously being introduced in Jonesborough, Johnson City, and Greeneville during National Storytelling Week. East Tennessee is where many patriot soldiers settled after the American Revolution. Children of the Revolution is about their progeny, America’s first generation coming of age in Washington and Greene Counties.
Well known pioneers; David Deaderick, Dr. William Chester, Nicholas Fain, Christopher Taylor, Adam Mitchell, Reverends Doak, Balch, and Witherspoon all played important roles in settling the area. All are characters in the 100-year odyssey of the Westward Sagas series that includes Book 1, Spring House; Book 2, Adam’s Daughters; and Book 3, Children of the Revolution.
All events I will be participating in below are open to the public and free of charge. Hope to see you at one of the events.
The week starts with a TV appearance on the “Daytime Tri-Cities” Show with Amy Lynn and Morgan King, Tuesday morning, October 2. This will be my second appearance on their show and a great group they are at WJHL/CBS affiliate.
A book signing and reception at the Historic General Morgan Inn in Greeneville, Tennessee on Wednesday, October 3, 2-4 p.m.
Storytelling and book signing at Gracious Designs in Johnson City, Tennessee, Thursday, October 4, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., followed by afternoon tea.
Book signing in the Jonesborough Visitors Center, Thursday, October 4, 1:30-5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, October 5 and 6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, October 7, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Click for additional Appearances.